Creating awareness around sports-related eye injuries will help you and your family’s vision stay safe year-round, but it’s especially important over the warm months. Here’s why.
Spring is finally here! Sun is out, temperatures are rising, and people are preparing for their favorite warm-weather sports. While this is great news, many of these activities can lead to eye injuries.
To raise awareness and prevent sports-related injuries, the ophthalmology community has chosen April as Sports Eye Safety Month.
When thinking of sports-related injuries, images of broken bones, sprained ankles, and torn muscles likely come to mind. But eye injuries in sports are also quite common. Here are a few surprising statistics about sports-related eye injuries:
The ER treats around 30,000 sports-related eye injuries in a year. That’s one injury every 13 minutes.
Pool and water sports rank number 1 on the list of most common eye injuries. They occur around five times more often than injuries in boxing, martial arts, and wrestling.
Eye injuries in sports affect all age groups, but they have the most serious repercussions for children. Most eye injuries among kids aged 11 to 14 occur while playing sports, making them the leading cause of blindness in children.
No need to shelve the sneakers – most sports-related eye injuries are preventable. Sports lovers can take specific actions that minimize the risk and severity of injury.
In honor of Sports Eye Safety Month, here are four tips people can use to protect their eyes while participating in sports and recreational activities.
Wearing protective eyewear is the most effective preventive action. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) estimates that 90% of serious eye injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate protective eyewear. For this reason, we recommend athletes of all ages use proper eye protection when participating in sports.
For full protection, eyewear must meet the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) standards. Approved eyewear such as polycarbonate lenses can help against serious impact. All protective eyewear should fit securely over both eyes while allowing the use of a helmet and other safety gear.
Prescription glasses, sunglasses, and even occupational safety glasses don’t provide adequate protection. In fact, eyewear such as standard glasses can pose additional risks as lenses may shatter and lodge in the eye.
If you have questions about the appropriate type of eyewear for your sport or recreational activity, feel free to ask Dr. Besser or your eye doctor for guidance.
Prevention is always the best course of action for eye injuries. However, even with proper protection, injuries can occur. Athletes and teams should stock a first aid kit before engaging in an activity where an eye injury could occur.
The kit should have up-to-date provisions, including eye-specific supplies such as eyewash and a rigid eye shield. Eyewash treats specks and debris in the eye. When applying, DO NOT rub the eye or use tweezers to remove the material. Instead, use the eyewash to try and remove the speck. If the debris doesn’t wash out, seek emergency eye care.
A rigid eye shield can protect against cuts and punctures, which can occur during sport. In cases of eye cuts or punctures, don’t wash the eye or attempt to remove stuck objects. Without applying pressure, cover the eye with a rigid shield and secure it between the eyebrow and cheekbone.
As sports-related eye injuries can have serious effects on children, a little supervision goes a long way. Attend closely to children playing sports and come prepared with proper first aid supplies in case of injury.
Sun exposure presents a threat to athletes, especially during spring and summer. Some of the most common sun-related eye issues include photokeratitis — burns and sharp pain in the corneas — pinguecula, pterygium, and cataracts.
People can protect their eyes from the sun by wearing hats and sunglasses that block UV rays. We recommend finding shade to play in. If not possible, consider bringing your own shaded equipment to minimize the effects of the sun on your eyes and skin.
Sunscreen also provides relief against sun-related damage. When applying sunscreen, make sure you use sport-specific products that won’t run into the eyes. Look for brands without oxybenzone or other potentially harmful ingredients.
Proper eye safety means knowing when to get help. Never assume an eye injury is harmless. Even injuries that appear “minor” can have lasting effects on vision and eye health.
If you sustain a sports-related eye injury and are unsure of the severity, promptly see an eye doctor. Some eye emergencies that require an immediate trip to the ophthalmologist or the emergency room include:
Irremovable specks or debris in the eye.
A blow that causes severe pain, blurry vision, one eye sticking out more than the other, blood inside the eye, or discoloration.
Severe cuts and eyelid punctures.
Sports and exercise are great for your health! Continue to stay safe and active by practicing proper sports eye safety.
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